Tag Archives: Mount Vernon

Brooklyn Marathon Race Report

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On November 20th I completed the Brooklyn Marathon, my second time joggling this race and fifth marathon overall. I had a decent race experience overall, even if I finished slower than the first time. My training and just about everything leading up to the big day were pretty much flawless, except that I may have over-trained. This time I ran as part of Team Humane, to help raise money for the Humane League. I admit it feels a little different joggling as part of a team. I felt like I wasn’t just doing it for me anymore, and that my first 4 marathons were warm-ups for this race.

Part of me is surprised I’ve completed 5 marathons; it wasn’t so long ago that I thought I would never be able to complete 1 marathon as a runner. Yes, while just running, not joggling! The pre-marathon me seems like a different person. I’m not sure who he was, but he disappeared when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. Now let’s explore marathon #5.

Race day was cold, cloudy and brutally windy. The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain, but I increasingly find weather forecasters about as reliable as astrologers or worse yet, political pollsters. So I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t rain at all. It was about 40 when I first arrived at Prospect Park at 8 AM, but the fierce, howling wind made it feel like the low 30s. I was conspicuously under-dressed(only shorts, and 2 shirts on), so before the race I was shivering and trying to warm myself up by juggling, which only helped a little.

I simply wanted to complete in less than 4 hours and I wasn’t optimistic about not dropping the balls due to the cold and wind. Last year at the Yonkers marathon I started out a little too fast and that may be why I injured myself. So when the race started I took it very slow for the first 2 miles; I didn’t mind looking like a juggling slug. After mile 2, channeling my inner vegan cheetah, I started picking up the pace, doing sub-8 minute miles until I got to mile 9. By then it was also a little warmer; I had no trouble with the cold air during this race except when the wind picked up.

The Brooklyn marathon isn’t especially hilly. The marathon is a series of loops around Prospect Park, and some parts are hilly, particularly the approach to the northern section. At first the hills didn’t slow me down that much, but after several miles of this my legs started to feel fatigued. I drank Gatorade for the first time at mile 7, and did this about every 2.5 miles. My pace after mile 10 gradually slowed down. After mile 20 I was doing 10, then 12 minute miles.

The crowd support was tremendous. Thank you so much people of Brooklyn, especially my fellow vegan Brooklynites! A lot of laughs, lots of cheering, and some people were very supportive of me because of the cause I represent. I finished in 4:16, which means my average pace was 9:47. This was my slowest marathon ever. My fastest marathon was in 3:40. At least I didn’t injure myself like I did last year(in spite of injuring myself I was faster then). This was my 3rd dropless marathon in a row. This means the majority of the marathons I’ve joggled have been dropless. Even I am astonished. Here’s the proof! Here I am at what I think may be mile 16. Thank you Denise! Ok, that’s less than 1% of the race, but it’s still something!

So why was I so slow? I think the cold weather and wind were partly responsible. And I also suspect I may have been overdoing it with the unicycling during training. Riding on a unicycle, especially backwards, isn’t a good way to improve marathon performance. Not that I was expecting it would help, but I shouldn’t have done so much backwards unicycling in the weeks leading up to this event. Though it wasn’t helpful, it sure is fun!

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Humane League and also those who’ve provided encouragement and training tips. Wishing everyone luck with their training, fund-raiding or whatever you’re doing.

So what’s next? Stay tuned!

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I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon to raise money for the Humane League

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As I’m sure many of you already know, on November 20th I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon. It’s been a few years since I’ve last joggled the Brooklyn Marathon, and a little over a year since my last marathon, which was the one in Yonkers. This time I will be joggling as part of Team Humane to help raise money for the Humane League, one of the most effective animal rights organizations in the U.S. To contribute: Help me raise money for Team Humane League

I considered many options when it came to which animal rights group to raise money for, and went with the Humane League because they really know how to get things done.

I’m beyond excited to be part of this. There are so many incredible athletes and activists who are part of this group, I can’t help but think I am part of something big and wonderful. The Humane League’s current focus is on confronting Aramark and their abuse of chickens. To get involved, you can join their Fast Action Network, and/or you can join Team Humane.

It feels great joggling to help alleviate animal suffering. Yes, we can’t end all animal cruelty overnight, but if those of us who care all play our part we can slowly help bring an end to it. As for race specifics, I’m just aiming for under 4 hours, not aiming for a PR this time. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I’m definitely looking forward to race day!

Becoming a better unicyclist

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“Do something crazy with your energy, and you’ll always get back more than you put in” – C.P

The world of unicycling is the gift that keeps on giving. When I purchased my first unicycle last year, I realized it would take a lot of skill to be able to ride it compared to a bicycle. I knew it would take a lot of practice and getting better would likely be frustrating at times, especially after upgrading to a larger unicycle and having to relearn certain skills. Since my last unicycling report on April 18, I’ve been training on a regular basis with my 29″ unicycle and have improved in a number of ways:

  • Instead of 6.5 miles per hour on long rides, I can now ride at 8 miles per hour
  • I can go up big hills. A few days ago I climbed an 80 foot hill with an average grade of 10% without stumbling or dismounting
  • I can now idle a little on the 29″ unicycle, for 20 cycles at most
  • I can juggle while unicycling for up to 2 miles without dropping, 3.5 miles with a few drops; I can even juggle while going up and down hills, so long as they aren’t too steep. My joggling ability definitely helped me with this skill.

In my experience, all it takes to ride faster is feeling more comfortable on the unicycle, and so this it the easiest thing to improve in the short-term.

Idling on the 29″unicycle  was particularly difficult at first. Though I could often idle for several minutes nonstop on my 24″ unicycle, at first I found idling impossible on the 29″. I just couldn’t maneuver the larger wheel the same way I could the 24″, and kept dismounting after dozens of failed attempts. I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to idle on the 29″, then one day it clicked and I was elated. It was a magical moment. I finally figured it out and 1 idle became 3, then 10, then 20. It’s still much more challenging and tiring than on the 24″, but it’s starting to feel almost natural.

Hills are still a challenge as well. There are steep hills around here that I can easily climb with the 24″ that I still can’t do with the 29″. Juggling while unicycling doesn’t feel like joggling yet, but that will take a little more practice. I still need to work on hopping and going backwards. If you’re new to unicycling and are struggling, just keep on practicing. There are tons of videos on Youtube that give a lot of useful tips. What seems impossible now may soon come easy to you with enough practice.

All in all, I’m enjoying unicycling and the fitness benefits, even if learning certain skills can be frustrating at times. Discovering strange new abilities certainly makes it a worthwhile fitness challenge.

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Make it shtick!

Screenshot from 2013-10-25 22:21:56A few days ago while joggling around the neighborhood on a brilliantly sunny though breezy day, this man who was driving down the street told me “I really love your shtick!”. I took it as a compliment, but he drove off so fast I couldn’t respond or at least say “thanks”. This compliment got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had their own shtick when it came to fitness?

What is a “shtick” anyway? “Shtick” is one of those unmistakable Yiddish words that has made its way into mainstream English, largely due to the influence of American Jewish comedians. It originally meant “piece”, but nowadays it has multiple meanings, usually meaning something like “gimmick”, or “talent”, or “eccentricity”, or “comedic theme”. A “shtick” is often an important part of a famous person’s persona or an essential part of their act. Jeff Foxworthy’s shtick are his “you might be a redneck…” jokes.

It isn’t always meant to be comedic, but is usually is. People who aren’t comedians can have “shticks” – my shtick is juggling while running(though there are some others who do this, there aren’t any others in the town I live in). Some people may think calling joggling a “shtick” is a mild insult, as if it implies it is silly or ridiculous. Thing is, last time I checked, there’s nothing about fitness and ridiculousness that makes them incompatible. I am both fit and ridiculous; indeed, I think I am as fit as I am because of my ridiculousness. It feels great making people laugh while I train.

I think everyone should adopt a shtick to help them stick to their fitness routine. Put your own personal stamp on it. Make people laugh or try to be unforgettable. It doesn’t have to be joggling, it can be yodeling while cycling or wearing ridiculous outfits. Don’t be afraid of being ridiculous, embrace your ridiculous side. Ridiculousness in the service of fitness is no vice.

Longest distance run without doubling back

Screenshot from 2013-09-14 21:04:20Today’s 22 mile(35.4 km) run wasn’t a record breaker in terms of miles covered, but it was the farthest distance I’ve run from anywhere without doubling back. It’s also the farthest north I’ve ever run. I ran up to Millwood where my ride was patiently waiting. Millwood is about as “middle of no where” you can get in Westchester county(it’s not even on the map above because it has such a small population). It took me 3 hours and 19 minutes to complete. I took a short break in Elmsford at the 10 mile mark to get some apple juice from the grocery store. This is also the first time I ran through the notorious gap in the Putnam trail between the northern terminus of the southern portion and the start of the northern portion in the middle of the village of Elmsford. The gap isn’t much, but the streets have a lot of traffic in this area.

The temperature through most of it was in the mid to upper 60s, so I didn’t sweat a lot. I dropped the balls several times. The northern portion of the Putnam trail, also known as the North County Trailway is steeper than I had anticipated. From Elmsford to Millwood, it is mostly an upward slope. I saw some cyclists struggle with it in a few steeper areas. It proved a challenge to me in some parts, and the resulting tiredness is a large part of why I dropped the balls many times.

Another runner seemed interested in challenging me to a race. Somewhere just north of the Irish famine park, I started hearing another runner behind me. Before I knew it, she zoomed ahead of me and looked back at me smugly. I was taken by surprise. I normally don’t race other runners, especially during long runs but I couldn’t resist. I tried keeping up with the woman in the pink leggings, but couldn’t. She kept getting farther and farther away. Eventually I slowed down to a very slow jog to regain my energy.

After doing this for a little less than 10 seconds I felt an energy rush. I was soon able to keep pace with her, though I was still far behind. I eventually caught up to her, and was just several feet behind. My competitive side took over me and soon I ran right by her on the approach to Elmsford. At the same time I think she was slowing down anyway. I lost sight of her by the time I got to Elmsford for my break. She was a very fast runner. If you’re reading this, I had a lot of fun. And yes I dropped the balls many times.

At the end of the run I was tired and sore, though I felt I could have run a few more miles, very slowly.

Joggling 18 miles through central Westchester county

Screenshot from 2013-06-05 17:56:29I hope my fellow jogglers, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts are having as much fun as I am having this time of year.

This run took place on Wednesday, June 5th. The magenta line in the middle, from south to north and then back south to Mount Vernon was my journey. I joggled about 98% of the time, except when I had a water break and a very short bathroom break in the woods. It took me 3.5 hours to complete this 18 mile run, and the last hour was pretty rough. The juggling was so much easier than the running. There were many hills along the trail and it was a sunny day, in the low 70s, so I didn’t sweat that much. I did some juggling tricks much of the way.

I followed the Bronx river for much of the run, but then the trail that runs along it terminates in Scarsdale, amidst a lot of construction, so I had to use route 22 to get to White Plains. I’ve been drinking more cherry juice during and after long runs, and this may have helped me recover to the point that I was able to run 3 miles the day after this 18 miler, and 7.75 miles today.

Ordinarily, I just take a day off the day after very long runs. The soreness the day after this was pretty bad, but it is almost completely gone now. Remember, I don’t stretch before or after runs(scientific studies show it is useless, although I do a little back stretching and nothing else), and this may also be a factor in speedier recovery.

Walking through little Brazil

The “Little Brazil” of Westchester county, in Mount Vernon. There is so much cultural diversity in New York! This diversity makes joggling around the New York area even more fun and enriching. This neighborhood in Mount Vernon has one of the largest Brazilian-American communities in the north-east U.S.

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Can you teach me how to juggle?

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Sometimes when I am out joggling, if I am running slowly enough, people will come up to me to ask if I can teach them how to juggle, besides asking for my autograph. For some strange reason, they just assume that I know how to juggle. Anyway, I don’t have a unique approach to teaching juggling, but here are some quick tips I usually offer:

1) Concentrate as closely as possible on the balls, keep your eyes on them at all times. Get rid of all distractions.

2) Relax, try putting yourself into a meditative state. In fact, meditate for a few minutes before you try to practice juggling.

3) Do some arm and upper body exercises to warm up the muscles you will use for juggling. Push-ups are ideal for this, along with doing curls with dumbbells(or resistance bands), but you can also do some very fast shadow-boxing to get your arms ready for juggling.

4) Listen to some music. I recommend music that helps you relax and/or makes you want to dance. I’ve made some big breakthroughs in the past while listening to some “funky” dance music. It makes sense the more you think about it since juggling and dancing are very closely related. Try pretending you’re Michael Jackson or James Brown while listening to their music. Early on you should stand still, don’t dance while juggling(you can do this later).

5) If you are trying to juggle 3 balls, master 2 first.

6) Believe in yourself. It’s okay to keep dropping balls, even the greatest jugglers in the world were once beginners who kept dropping balls.

It’s such a terrific upper body and brain exercise, so keep at it!

Joggling after the blizzard

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Adventures in the blizzard

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The people in the suburbs just north of New York City who witness the strange spectacle of a man joggling probably think he is either crazy or just very serious about fitness. Of course, being crazy and being very serious about fitness aren’t mutually exclusive. Running in a blizzard is crazy, but joggling in one is even crazier. Still, you do need to be a serious athlete to do something crazy like this.

Joggling in the early stages of a blizzard isn’t easy, although you may have an uncle or cousin who thinks otherwise. My State Street boots may help keep my feet dry and warm, but they are difficult to run in. My feet and knees start hurting if I try running at my usual pace in them for more than a few yards, so I’m forced to do intervals between running very slowly, and a fast power-walk while juggling.

Luckily it wasn’t too cold(35 F or 1.6 C) yesterday, but the snow, which sometimes turned to sleet, kept blowing in my face. My sunglasses came in handy to protect my sensitive eyes, though they would sometimes get blurry. I did my usual route along the Bronx river, but only covered about 3.5 miles.

I also tried joggling with snowballs a few times. Juggling with them wasn’t especially difficult since I had heavy gloves on, but they would fall apart very quickly. I also got caught in the crossfire a few times between groups of kids throwing snowballs, but I managed to dodge all of them.

All in all, a wonderful time joggling in the blizzard.

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